One of the biggest dietary mistakes I ever made was eating a Paleo diet for three months. I wrote a previous blog talking about my stint with the Paleo diet and how it resulted in the worse blood analysis I have ever had in my entire life. This was a result of me jumping on the Paleo bandwagon based on information from the internet. Guess, I'm not immune to the influences of the web!
For the longest time, people have gone on low-fat diets which worked for some but created health issues for others. Every day, there seems to be conflicting evidence about the effects of fats on our health.
There needs to be a distinction between saturated fats and other healthy fats (unsaturated fats) that make up our diet. Saturated fats are found in animal products (butter, milk, bacon, sausage, fatty cuts of meat, cheese) baked goods, ice cream, coconut milk and oil. These fats have been shown to contribute to a host of chronic health issues such as insulin resistance, a decline in brain health and cardiovascular disease.
Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) on the other hand, are found in foods such as nuts, seeds and wild fish. They have been shown to have protective benefits when it comes to heart and metabolic health.
This brings us back to my original question. Are fats good or bad for us? The answer to that question depends on your genetics. Ever since scientists started deciphering our DNA we have learned a lot about our bodies and how they function.
The effect of saturated fats on your health has a lot more to do with your genetics than you might realize. Some individuals carry genetic variants that affect how their body processes saturated fats. For example, having a genetic variant for the APOA2, TCF7L2 or ACE genes affect how your body processes saturated fats. For individuals with these genetic variants, eating a diet high in fats predisposes them to heart disease, obesity, Type II diabetes, fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.
The conflicting results we often see in research can be explained in part by the fact that genomics is not often accounted for in nutrition research. However, this trend is slowly changing. As individuals, we are different in our ability to metabolize fats, carbs and proteins.
A dietary intervention that worked for your friend may not necessarily work for you because both of you have unique genetic variances that make you respond to the same foods and environments differently.
Don't make the same mistake I did regarding your health. If you want a simple way to make health and nutrition decisions less complicated, use your genetics to find a solution that is unique to you as an individual.